Summary of Catechism paragraphs 2464-2513:
- Because God Himself is the Truth, become man in Jesus Christ, we as His people are called to abide in truth, in both our words and actions; this is summed up in the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
- God created us with a desire for truth, so we have a sacred duty to seek it; once we have found the fullness of Truth in Christ, we are bound to witness to the Gospel with our lives; many have given the ultimate testimony by dying for the faith — they are literally “martyrs,” from the Greek for “witnesses.”
- God gave us the gift of speech to enable us to communicate the truth; lying is therefore an abuse of this gift, for it intentionally deceives others who have a right to know the truth; a lie is unjust because it fails to give others their due.
- Lying can rise to the level of mortal sin depending on the factors involved, such as if one knowingly causes serious harm by telling a falsehood; lying under oath (perjury) is particularly grave, as false witness corrupts the process of justice.
- At the same time, just because something is true, that does not mean that we should always and everywhere divulge it; out of sensitivity and respect for the reputation of others, we must not reveal someone else’s mistakes to people who don’t need to know; if we do so unnecessarily, we commit the sin of detraction.
- The sin of calumny is the spreading of falsehoods that harm the reputation of others; if we should hear such scandalous gossip, we must be careful not to believe it hastily and thereby sin through rash judgment; whenever we fail in these ways, we should try to repair the damage as best we can.
- This commandment also covers subtler forms of falsehood, including flattery, especially in the sense of endorsing someone’s sinful behavior; hypocrisy; bragging about ourselves; and ridiculing others in a malicious manner.
- As consumers of news media, we should be wary of all of these sins against the truth, and judiciously weigh our sources of information; journalists have a serious professional obligation to serve the truth, not dissimulate; governments must promote freedom of information, not orchestrate disinformation campaigns.
- Although we most often think of truth in terms of speech, truth is also conveyed in other ways; God reveals Himself through the wonder of creation, and human beings proclaim truth through art; the great artists shed light on the human condition and speak to our deepest spiritual longings.
- Sacred art has a vital role to play in drawing our hearts and minds to God, thus assisting our prayerful devotion; sacred images are visually compelling expressions of what we read in Scripture, and as a result, they provide another avenue to learn about, and grow in love for, the faith.
Live Your Faith
It is extremely easy to fall into sins of speech. Even in what we might consider trivial matters, a careless disregard for truth becomes corrosive.
Once we are acclimated to telling “little” lies, gossiping, or jumping to conclusions, our conscience steadily hardens, and we might not even perceive our sin. Let us examine our consciences, and ask the Lord how we may take greater care to avoid sinful speech.